Fantastic Fest 2009: Tom Shankland's The Children
by Alex Billington
September 28, 2009
Another surprise delight I discovered at Fantastic Fest is Tom Shankland's The Children, a horror-thriller from England. I've been waiting to find out what this year's Let the Right One In would be (since that I saw that film at Fantastic Fest last year). While this film isn't exactly that incredible, it's one of my favorites of the festival (so far) along with Mandrill. The Children is, in short, about a group of children who go crazy and start killing their parents. Shankland takes everything to the next level, though, even though he doesn't need to, from the great performances young and old to the thrilling story to the beautiful cinematography.
Two families meet up at a country estate to celebrate the winter holidays together. One of the families has two young kids, the other has three, one of which is a teenage daughter, the other two as young as the others. Everything seems to be going great until the kids slowly start to go crazy, screaming and suddenly running off at lunch. The families split up in attempt to calm everyone down and things take a turn for the worse with a sledding "accident" gone very wrong. It all begins to spin out of control from there, but without losing its vision and its direction, thankfully. Shankland was able to keep it tense even with all the madness.
Honestly, it's hard for me to explain why I loved this so much, but I'll try. I think because it was just such a visceral experience for me that I walked out loving it. It moves very swiftly (it's only 84 minutes long) and doesn't introduce any other outside elements or characters that aren't necessary. It has some problems with a few small loose ends (what exactly happened to the cat?), but overall I just got a good thrill out of watching it. Not many movies really make me nervous, but this one did (so did Paranormal Activity when I saw it a few weeks ago). It just felt like a polished and very well put together British horror/thriller all around.
The Children is not an outright horror film with guts and gore. Shankland chooses to cut back a bit on the all-out gore, but it's there, and there are quite a few deaths. I would call it more of a thriller than anything that is worth checking out if you're at all intrigued by the concept or by freaky killer kids (and who isn't?).
Fantastic Fest Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Reader Feedback - 10 Comments
I'm afraid just looking at the kids...O.0
Xerxex on Sep 28, 2009
The Children is a great little british horror film...full of "Damien like " little brats with a taste for brutal killings! Set around Xmas time....it reminds me a lot of The Omen and the child actors are actually pretty creepy! I have this on dvd...you can buy it from Play.com here in the UK..well worth £5!!
vegasdanny on Sep 28, 2009
Xmas? Chirstmas time! This review really piqued my interest, I'm already in love with british cinema, looking forward to it.
Xerxex on Sep 28, 2009
An accident gone wrong? Oh NO!
Bobby on Sep 28, 2009
this sounds pretty good.
beavis on Sep 29, 2009
This film was ok, The scenes were the children were hurt had been dealt with in a constructive way. One thing though, Is this really not out in the states? It's been on DVD and blu-ray here for some time. I think that there needs to be an agreement signed. Seriously. I still haven't seen up because it isn't out here yet.
Link1983 on Sep 29, 2009
I actually accidentally found this film like 3 months ago and surprisingly i went into it expecting it to be stupid, but i actually enjoyed the film. Honestly, any film with creepy children is going to scare the shit out of me, no matter how much it sucks, but id actually recommend this film to others.
Nikhil Hariharan on Sep 29, 2009
I bought this on BD from Amazon.co.uk months ago as a blind buy and folks, it is TERRIBLE! Alex, I always back you up, but I have to respectfully disagree with you here. 8.5/10!? It's one of the worst movies I have seen in a long long time. It's just a bunch of kids running around screaming, while the parents drink. And get killed. No suspense. Nothing. Awful awful film. 2/10 rating from me. And I'm being generous.
Film Fan on Sep 29, 2009
The little girl looks a LOT like Wednesday from the Adam's Family.
SuicidalOptimist on Sep 29, 2009
This movie actually came out last november/december 2008 in UK, I actually worked in a cinema when it was on and watched parts of the movie and it looked not bad, more a chiller than a horror, it was a shame not many people came to see it and it lasted only 2 weeks in the cinema. It didnt get much publicity in british media probably because it was regarded as a indie movie.
paul on Sep 29, 2009
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